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Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, March 5, 1960

March 5, 2010 |  2:00 pm

March 5, 1960, Mirror Cover
Leonard Warren, 1911-1960

Telephone Girls Belie Propaganda


Paul Coates

    I'm a client, reasonably well paid up, of Pacific Telephone Co.  And I'd like to assure you that my complaint is nothing personal.
    In fact, over the years, I've built up kind of an impersonal affection for the girls who get numbers for me.  Admittedly, they're just voices.  Nothing serious -- like the initiation of a pen-pal correspondence -- has ever come out of my brief conversations with them when I dial 0 or 110 or 113.
    But my empathy has never flagged.
    My complaint is on a policy-level matter.  About the yellow pages. 
    You have, no doubt, seen and read the propaganda which PT&T's Madison Ave. types have been putting out about their fat classified directory.
    They've been claiming that it's possible to find anything from an elephant to a  sunken Spanish galleon to an attractive help-mate who doesn't smoke or drink but loves outdoor sports, children and mah-jongg merely by flipping through the yellow pages.

March 5, 1960, Leonard Warren

    I believed them, too.  Until yesterday.  When a friend of mine related his brief moment of disillusionment to me.
    He wanted to contact a  newspaper in Covina, but he forgot the name of it.
    So, like me, a believer in the omniscience of the girls with the friendly voices, he dialed 113.  And explained his problem.
    "I'm sorry," the voice replied, friendly but firm.  "Unless you know the name of the newspaper, there would be no way for me to check it for you."
    "Couldn't you look it up in the yellow pages?" he suggested.  "Under newspapers or periodicals or something."
    "Oh, no.  I couldn't do that," she said.
March 5, 1960, Finch Trial     "Why?"
    "We in information," she answered, "are instructed not to use the yellow pages."
     She suggested that my friend contact the public library for the Covina paper's phone number.
    He did.  And they obliged him with the information immediately.
No Lilt, but She Has Answers
    So, if you're in the market for an elephant, a sunken Spanish galleon, an attractive help-mate who doesn't smoke or drink but loves outdoor sports, children, and mah-jongg, or a newspaper in Covina which you can't remember the name of, don't dial 113.  Call your neighborhood librarian.
    She may wear her hair in a knot in back and have less of a friendly lilt to her voice than 113, but, at least, she's got the answers.
    When  my friend asked his particular Marion-the-Librarian how she was able to give him the information so quickly, she replied:  "I looked it up in the yellow pages."
    Speaking of answers, the L.A. County Air Pollution Control District came up with another one this week.
    For years, antagonistic citizens have been challenging its claim that automobiles are a major contributor to smog.
    "If that's so," they ask, "why -- with a million cars crowding the area -- is there never any smog in Pasadena on New Year's Day?"
    I don't know how long APCD meteorologists have been researching into the phenomenon, but in their March report, they've got the solution.
    "Photochemical smog," the report reveals, "requires not only large quantities of auto exhaust but also the absence of air movement so that exhaust fumes do not disperse.
    "APCD meteorologists, studying Pasadena's records of New Year's Days back to 1953, determined that there had been a brisk breeze every one of the eight holiday mornings, with the average wind speed being 8.5 miles per hour.
    "Winds of this speed disperse smog before it becomes irritating."
    Any other questions?